‘Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.’ – Woodrow T. Wilson
How many times have you been online and thought: ‘I’m messaging back and forth with this person as if I know them…but I don’t, do I?’
Do online friends give you a false sense of security or are they real friends? Is it possible to turn online friends into cafe friends and potential real-life friends who may become life long friends, colleagues, future employees or partners?
It’s possible to make it possible.
The World We Live In
We live in an increasingly technological world where physical tasks like grocery shopping, paying bills, banking and clothes shopping can be done online. These aren’t typically places where you’d find online friends, but what about Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram?
On these social networking websites people can view personal photos, you can ‘like’ and send ‘a friend invite’ and receive birthday greetings on your birthday from people you’ve never met in person, so are these people you are connecting with your friends?
Well, perhaps some of them may have the potential to become real life friends but they are more likely to remain as online friends.
You may have found an online friend that connects with you over something you’ve commented on or something you have in common, but will you ever meet? Probably not.
Online friends tend to stay as online friends. But be aware if you’re friends online with someone, just remember that at the other end of your message or behind that phone or keyboard there could be a real person and even though you may never meet these people in real life, they are however ‘real’ people who if they’re human (not bots) may react in a similar manner to you regarding a comment or something shared or similar.
So is it possible to tell if you’re messaging online with a real human or just a bot? Yes it is, but we’ll get to this later.
We live in an increasingly isolated world. 2020 was the year when people were forced to self-isolate and practice social distancing, to reduce the spread of the covid 19 pandemic, so what did we do? We spent a lot more time online. More time online reconnecting with friends and family meant the creation of more online friends.
What are online friends?
Essentially, an online friendship is one created exclusively online. Generally speaking it develops by forming a bond with someone who shares same interests or leaves a comment or replies to something in a message. To understand the benefits of an online friendship it helps to understand some of the differences between an online friendship and an ‘in person’ friendship and the value of anonymity.
An online friend can nearly always be reached but also you can leave the discussion and then pick it up again later. They tend to be ‘lower maintenance’ friendships that don’t demand your physical presence. The only thing missing is physical touch but that can be replaced with sending a love heart emoji.
Online friends may communicate more openly with you due to the anonymous nature of being online. This is also why they say that people who communicate via say, email or who use social networking sites to create communities can develop a close relationship faster and boost engagement in the workplace because anonymity creates less personal accountability and scrutiny.
Online anonymity makes it easier to share interesting facts about yourself which you may not otherwise reveal in a ‘face to face’ relationship. People tend to disclose more when they can remain visually anonymous as they are not encumbered by prejudice or stigma based around gender, age or physical appearance.
Re-inventing oneself by (whilst not being seen to do this by remaining visually anonymous) can also make someone represent themselves in a more authentic way.
With an online friendship you can be detached but attached at the same time. Although you can be in different geographical locations, online friends are able to be emotionally immediate even though their locations might be miles apart.
Social networking enables us to easily create social ties that were impossible a few decades ago while technology has developed relatively quickly, human relationships are a little slower to catch up and we may not be aware but our online friendships can develop at a rapid rate and more quickly than we think.
Social networking can help us to stay connected with friends, family, colleagues, customers and clients. But what is meant by the term ‘social networking’ if we talk about it in the strictly social sense – meaning (offline) in-person socialising?
We know that being online allows like minded individuals to stay in touch, create meme’s, send emojis, view gifs, laugh at funny animal videos and absorb more information than ever before. But is it allowing us to form the deeper bonds required to take an online friendship to the next level by developing it into a real life friendship? When does social networking tip over from the online world into the offline world and help us to establish in-person friendships?
Messaging back and forth with a profile image that you’ve accepted as a true representation of the person you are ‘getting to know’ can feel quite personal. Let’s assume that the profile image is of the person you are communicating with and you’re discovering that you have things in common such as shared values, experiences, hobbies and sports. In fact, the relationship has developed to a point where you’re starting to look forward to ‘a reply’ from the person in question. Then suddenly you ask yourself…
Why do I like this person that I haven’t even met? Why do I look forward to a reply from them? Could it be that online friendships form as a consequence of ‘hope’ and that without access to the internet, we realise that it would be impossible to make a friend as quickly and in seeking a friendship we are comforted by the thought that we are not alone? Is it this, that makes us exchange information with a complete stranger who at this point is just a profile image on a screen. Or is it the beginning of a promising online friendship?
Some advantages of online friends only are:
- You don’t have to meet them. Online friends are abundant and there are usually plenty more where they came from.
- Online friends really aren’t very demanding. You can usually message them when you want and they you.
- Online friends can live in different countries or States and you can learn about their culture or lifestyle.
- Even if you’re shy or a little socially awkward, you can easily approach people online. Typing (in private) rather than talking (in public) means that you can express your feelings in a way where you there are no real repercussions if your comments are taken the wrong way.
- You can learn about someone, sometimes more easily often through their profile or by asking them questions. For some reason this seems more acceptable online (probably because again of anonymity and distance) than in person where someone may object to you questioning them.
- Online relationships can make you feel that there are other people out there (just like you) and you are not alone. They offer hope.
- You can bond with online friends by exchanging information about your shared common interests.
But, if you’re getting excited with the thought of receiving a response from someone you’ve only just made contact with online, then you might be starting to engage with a profile image on an emotional level. Just be careful not to it let it result in fanciful feelings and unrealistic expectations because you haven’t actually met the person in question yet.
If the idea of meeting the actual person who is the profile photo (bursting the bubble so to speak) does not appeal, then you could be in danger of becoming obsessive and this is not where you want to be. One of the ways to kill the obsession is of course to simply meet the person in question. They are usually never as you anticipated and so the bubble is burst.
The experience of meeting someone in real life that you previously only knew online can be very different to what you had imagined.
But at this point, should we be asking ourselves: ‘Am I developing an unhealthy relationship with someone who I’m connecting online with?’ Or should I make the effort to meet this person? Do I want more than just an online friend? Be aware, it’s important to note at this point most online relationships go no further as meeting someone does take effort and sometimes it’s just easier to make a new online friend.
Social networking communities such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter that provide no opportunity for people to physically meet rely on the ease of a ‘click’ to create an online presence only.
But if you’re getting to the point where you’re asking yourself: ‘What now?’ And think you may be in danger of exhausting your online friendship, then a physical in person meeting may be necessary, but be warned: Many people will ghost or walk away at this point leaving you a little miffed that they were not prepared to put the effort into meeting you.
Or it may feel like outright rejection for no reason. Be inclined to put it down to online behaviour – a phenomenon of the modern human condition that if you’re online frequently enough you’re sure to experience.
Developing a relationship with an online profile photo (and that’s all it is at this stage because you haven’t met the person who claims to be the profile image) then be aware – your online relationship may developing at a rapid pace that may end up in you exchanging too much information too soon.
Suddenly your online friend is no longer there. For whatever reason (and you’ll never know the reason because they’ve ghosted you) and your online friendship will never result in a real world friendship and so you may never meet in person.
It’s important to note at this point most online relationships go no further as meeting someone does take effort and sometimes it’s just easier to make a new online friend. Social networking communities such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter that provide no opportunity for people to physically meet rely on the ease of a ‘click’ to create an online presence only.
But if you’re getting to the point where you’re asking yourself: ‘What now?’ And think you may be in danger of exhausting your online friendship and a physical in person meeting may be necessary, then be warned: Some people will ghost or walk away at this point leaving you a little miffed that they were not prepared to put the effort into meeting you.
Or it may feel like outright rejection for no reason. Or, you could just put it down to online behaviour – a phenomenon of the modern human condition that if you’re online frequently enough you’re sure to experience.
But how do you ensure that a valued online connection will develop into a more meaningful relationship and what can you do to facilitate this?
You’ve reached a cross-roads or a bridge in your online friendship where you really do have to ask yourself a serious question: ‘Would I like to meet this person?’ If the answer is: ‘Yes,’ then you may step onto the bridge. But if the answer is: ‘No.’ Then perhaps it’s time to ask yourself what you’re really doing.
Purely online relationships that continue over a (sometimes) long period of time where neither party have any intention of meeting – tend to bubble over into the ‘unhealthy’ range. Unless you have a good reason for not meeting (like for instance you can’t travel) then you really should be making the effort. Why? Because even an online relationship needs to go somewhere.
Online relationships can be like hungry fishes that require fish food, so feed your fishes.
So you’re at the bridge and you’re looking along it and it looks a little unsafe maybe even swaying a little, questions are flooding your mind like:
- How did I get here?
- Do I really have to do this?
- What if the bridge gives way?
- What if I fall from the bridge?
- What if they change their mind and don’t want to meet me?
- What if meeting this person feels awkward?
At this point you really do have to say to yourself: ‘These are just insecurities and I know that a real experience will result in a positive outcome. So there’s no good reason not to do this.’ You’ve gone over the checklist in your mind and you know the persons exists and is not a bot, because they’re 5050 V (5050 Verified) and you’ve viewed their vlog. You’ve also:
1/ Established a first name basis.
2/ Established where each other are from.
3/ Established what each other does for work.
4/ Established common interests or the things that interest you.
5/ And very importantly, established that you’re dealing with a real human (and not a bot) by dealing only with 5050 V people. (5050 V is 5050 Verified at 5050 Cafe Friends which means a vlog has been uploaded to verify a person’s identity).
Then it’s time to broach the subject, by messaging something like:
‘I’ve enjoyed our conversation so far and would like to continue the conversation by sending you a coffee invite and meeting up for coffee, would that be ok?’
If the reply comes back in the affirmative. You’re on your way to taking your online friendship to the next level by continuing it over coffee in the real world.
Right Place, Right Time, Right Circumstance
They’ve said: ‘Yes,’ so congratulate yourself and take another step on the bridge. You’ve risked rejection to take your online friendship to the ‘next level.’
They’ve also given you an idea of when, where and what and although the process has taken a little longer than you thought it would, you’re starting to feel that you’re going about making a new friend the right way, but now you’re faced with, ok, so, who invites who? And who pays for what? And where do we meet? Even though you’ve told yourself: ‘Let’s do this.’ How do you actually do it?
The beauty of 5050 Cafe Friends is that they take the agony out of the situation by handling it all on the website. All you have to do is choose ‘A Cafe Near You’ and you’re on your to making a new friend. So take the plunge (no, don’t dive off the bridge), simply send a 5050 Coffee invite.
The 5050 Coffee Invite
A stressless, no fuss way of meeting with your online friends? Impossible. At 5050 Cafe Friends they’ve taken care of the situation by creating an invitation for 5050 Coffee. All you have to do is tap on the coffee cup icon, choose a cafe in your general vicinity, select the day, date and time and hit ‘send.’
The person/s receiving the invite will be able to accept, decline or bring a friend. The ‘bring a friend’ option is only available for people who identify as female when they register though. This option is designed to reduce anxiety (for females) about meeting someone new for the first time, so they can feel more comfortable with the situation. The person who has invited you, is then notified that the ‘bring a friend’ option is a condition of meeting.
Everyone however, must agree to the 5050 Protocol when registering. The 5050 Protocol is about going 50/50 or Dutch by paying for your own cup of coffee. This is a very simple thing, but a great way of making a new way of meeting people affordable and safe. This way everyone knows where they stand and a level playing field is created where no person need feel obligated in any way to the other.
Which means, if you’re under no obligation because you’ve paid for your own coffee or preferably non-alcoholic beverage you can leave when you want.
When everyone agrees with the 5050 Protocol it changes attitudes and behaviours and makes equality a reality. It makes equality a reality by affording all parties the same rights and privileges.
Then all party’s are meeting because they share some of the same interests or they’re simply interested in each other. They’ve established an online friendship and now want to take that step onto the bridge.
The days of anyone having to feel obligated to anyone because they have made the conscious decision to meet them or because someone paid for a cup of coffee are hopefully well and truly behind us.
Let’s assume that the online friend in question has accepted your 5050 Coffee invite. By now, you can see the end of the bridge and it looks like you’re going to make a safe crossing. The last few steps will be the ‘actual meeting’ in the destination agreed to.
So what are cafe friends, exactly? Cafe friends are simply the people you have invited for 5050 Coffee who you’ll be meeting up with in a particular cafe. A cafe or coffee shop is a great place to meet to continue the conversation you enjoyed online and to get to know a friend (or friends) better.
Cafes provide the perfect space and ambience in which to converse and socialise. Being able to hang out with a friend/s in a place that’s not going to cost an arm and a leg is an attractive option.
Many cafes aren’t restricted by opening hours either. You can virtually turn up when it’s convenient for you and enjoy a barista made coffee or (preferably) non-alcoholic beverage of your choice.
Just remember to enjoy the freedom provided by the 5050 Protocol by paying for yourself. And when you think about it, it shouldn’t really matter who invites who. The only thing that should really matter is that everyone is meeting because they want to.
So you’re in the situation and your online friend turns up and on time. They follow suit and pay for their own coffee/non-alcoholic beverage. The conversation begins almost where it left off online. There’s no tension, there’s no stress and you both have established what you have in common and the conversation is flowing freely.
You’re even starting to discover that you have many more shared experiences and things in common than you first realised which will help forge a deeper bond between you. You crossed the bridge and got to the other side, safely.
With the help of 5050 Cafe Friends you’ve just turned your online friend into a cafe friend who may even become a real life friend.
You now know how to find friends online and convert them into cafe friends which could lead to forming a life long friend. You’ve discovered a new way of meeting people!